Your New Employee is Working Remotely…Now What?

April 21, 2020

Training remote employees is not as easy as people may think. Many believe that just creating onboarding materials, building a schedule and emailing that to a new employee is enough to get started, but there are a lot of unexpected challenges associated with bringing a new employee into his or her role.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have found themselves having to transition to a remote workforce very quickly. When the traditional model of onsite work is no longer viable, there are technical, managerial, operational and even cultural changes that must be made to accommodate the shift. While some iMethods employees worked remotely, the vast majority of our team worked onsite at our Jacksonville headquarters prior to the crisis. In early March, we determined it would be best to move our staff out of the office, so many of our staff members found themselves remote employees overnight.

In the midst of this transition for our existing staff, we also had to onboard newly hired staff remotely. Our typical new hire process involves onsite training, work shadowing, interviewing team members, group lunches, etc. Onboarding staff is as much a cultural exercise as a functional one. None of that was possible in this current environment.

Be Intentional

iMethods’ VP of HR and People Development Dean Medley is overcoming these challenges by being flexible and incorporating some innovative strategies. According to Dean, “I am constantly reminding the team that we have someone new in the organization. This person is still learning and needs all of our help.

“The reality is that the team is busy, and it can be easy to focus on work and forget to have meaningful conversations with new employees. For the time being, there can’t be informal conversations when passing each other in the hallway or during breaks. Instead, everyone must be intentional about having discussions with new hires to help them succeed in their roles.”

Dean has sent out emails to the current team members, encouraging them to spend at least an hour on the phone helping the new employee adjust to the role, sharing insights about their own roles in the company (and how they’ll likely interact with the new employee) and finding out what they can do to help new staff members feel more welcome. This not only helps the new employee learn, but it also helps build trust that is critical to a maintaining a great culture during these difficult times.

Technology, Technology, Technology

Dean adds, “Live interactions are still required. Role play and listening to new employees speak with a client or candidate in real time is the only way to give them adequate feedback. Fortunately, we can leverage technology that supports face-to-face interactions, shareable screens and the editing of documents in real time. All of these should be used whenever and wherever possible so the new employee can get real time feedback. It is much more beneficial to provide feedback right away than to send it via email at a later time.”

All Hands on Deck

Another way to ensure training is taking place is to ask the new employee who has been helping them the most. If the new employee is saying the person helping them the most is another new hire, that is not necessarily a good thing. While it’s positive they are leaning on each other and bonding, in does not indicate the employee is building trust and relationships with the rest of the team. “I may start to tweak things to ensure our newest team members are getting to know their new colleagues,” says Dean. “I love hearing a new name every time I ask who has been the most helpful. That lets me know that they are making the rounds, and everyone is doing their part to help the new hire.”

The key is to encourage everyone to engage in meaningful communication that builds trust with the new hire. Be intentional.